Pairing Sake with Your Thanksgiving Meal

Louie Anne Batac-Nguyen

Table of Contents

    The Thanksgiving meal is one of my favorite meals to prepare because it’s the single occasion out of the entire year when I don’t have to figure out what to make! The holidays can be stressful, especially when you’re the host, and I’ve found that the best dishes are already tried and tested, giving you more time to bond with friends and family. We delight in having an “All-American” meal on this holiday, except for the turkey, which has a bit of Asian inspiration.

    There are many ways to elevate even the most classic meal. As I’ve been enjoying different kinds of sake every month with the Tippsy subscription box, I thought, Why not serve sake with our Thanksgiving meal? It’d be a lot of fun to serve something different from wine, and as we move from one dish to the next, we can try a different bottle to experience the richness and variety of sake. Perfect.

    So here it is: my four-course, semi-traditional Thanksgiving menu with sake pairing ideas.

    Appetizer: Lots of cheese

    Appetizer with Lots of cheese

    We already eat so much at Thanksgiving that I try not to fuss over appetizers. However, I do love a good cheese board! You can make the arrangement simple or as decorative as you wish by adding accouterments (fruit, olives, and other fancy stuff). And did you know sake pairs great with cheese?

    Pairing idea

    Hatsumago “Junmai”. This sake with pepper jack cheese is incredible, like a sensation of melting chocolate! It’s one of my most favorite pairings.

    Another good option is Yuho “Rhythm of the Centuries” which is a little more earthy and rich.

    Extra tip: If you’ve never built a cheese/charcuterie board before, watch this YouTube tutorial.

    Soup: Butternut squash

    Butternut squash soup is very easy to make so long as you buy the butternut squash pre-sliced. Then, just pop into a slow cooker with other basic ingredients and watch the magic happen over a few hours. The wait is worth it and a topping of heavy cream and pumpkin seeds will give it an extra dose of elegance.

    Pairing idea

    You’ll need a crisp, dry sake that won’t get lost in the thick, rich flavor of the soup. Try Hakkaisan “Junmai Ginjo”. The Hakkaisan brand is a sure crowd-pleaser!

    Main entree: Turkey

    Main entree: Turkey

    There’s really no contest between ham and turkey, is there? Go for the wishbone!

    My family’s recipe consists of only three ingredients: soy sauce, fresh garlic, and pepper, massaged onto the turkey and refrigerated overnight for the flavor to kick in. Baking the turkey in an oven bag makes for a tender, juicy bird. Super easy! Although, I wouldn’t be able to instruct you on specific amounts for the ingredients; that part is instinct.

    Pairing idea

    This is the star of the meal, so you’ll need a sake that can stand-up to the richness of the soy sauce-based marinade, without overwhelming those trying sake for the first time.

    For a budget-friendly option, try Otokoyama “Tokubetsu Junmai”. This sake is very popular with sushi and sashimi, but is also great for poultry and fare with heavy sauces.

    If you’re feeling a little more extravagant, treat yourself and your guests to Suehiro “Ken”. This aromatic but dry sake has an elegant, lingering finish that gets better with each sip.

    As for sides, my family enjoys the triple treat: green bean casserole topped with crispy fried onions, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce, all made from scratch.

    Dessert: Pie

    Pumpkin pie

    Sadly, I am not a baker, so I rely on the local bakery’s assortment of pies. I usually go for pumpkin pie and pecan pie. Indulge with light, whipped cream and sprinkle with cinnamon.

    Pairing idea

    You have three choices here and they all sparkle! You really can’t go wrong with any of these sparkling sake at Tippsy.

    Hakkaisan “AWA” Clear Sparkling
    Nanbu Bijin “AWA Sparkling”
    Shirakabegura “Mio”

    For more tips, check out our Sake Guide, Lesson 7 on food pairing.

    What sake will you be drinking over this Thanksgiving holiday?

    Louie Anne Batac-Nguyen

    Louie Anne Batac-Nguyen

    Louie Anne lived and worked in beautiful Okinawa, Japan for 10 years, and brings with her a deep appreciation for Japanese culture. As a cultural writer and editor, she seeks to share her experiences and bridge connections with fellow travelers and dining enthusiasts.

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